Football: Bright sparks Wednesday

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Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Bright 58, Pearce 61, Watson 70

Sheffield United . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Whitehouse pen 87

Attendance: 34,959

TREVOR FRANCIS had been concerned before this match that Cup commitments might make his side neglect the League and to an extent the Wednesday manager was right to be worried. For 54 minutes they laboured like men with better things to do yesterday before stirring to win this 98th Sheffield League derby.

Goals from Mark Bright, Andy Pearce and Gordon Watson rescued a match that was threatening to become moribund and extended Wednesday's current run of form to five wins in eight matches since the turn of the year. A Uefa Cup place via the League is now not beyond them but for United, who managed a late consolation goal with Dane Whitehouse's penalty, a bleak spring beckons.

United, who have plummeted to their familiar position in the relegation zone with a run of two victories in 16 matches, are now only three points off the bottom and things appear to be getting worse rather than better.

They also have to share a city with a Wednesday team who are surging up the Premiership, have reached the semi-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup and are still involved in the FA Cup. Envy is too light a word for their feelings. Even more frustrating for them yesterday was that they were the better team for much of the game.

Wednesday were so poor in the first half that Francis had to remind them that the ball could be passed as well as hoofed forward. United, meanwhile, could have gone in at the interval 2-0 ahead. The best opening fell to Andy Scott, who intercepted Pearce's weak back-header, lobbed the ball over Kevin Pressman but was off balance when he hit the ball and the opportunity was squandered.

With that, United's chance disappeared. Nine minutes after the interval Wednesday at last slipped the shackles of mediocrity. Virtually nothing had been seen of Bright, their top scorer, but he appeared unattended in the six-yard box after Roland Nilsson's shot from the edge of the area had beeen parried by Alan Kelly. Bright side-footed in for his 15th goal of the season and eighth in 10 matches.

With their defences pierced, United caved in like a tyre with a puncture. First Pearce, with a huge leap, headed Andy Sinton's corner past Kelly, then Watson flicked the ball over the United goalkeeper and headed in.

United attacked for a measure of respect if not in any hope of a result. Their reward was a spot kick after Pearce had pushed over Andy Scott. Whitehouse's penalty - struck fiercely into the top corner - was immaculate. 'You'll not see a better one,' Francis said.